Ten new strategies including a new provincial health division have been launched in an effort to fight cancer in Alberta.
The province made the long-term strategy plan announcement Tuesday.
Changing our Future: Alberta’s Cancer Plan to 2030 lists 10 strategies meant to improve cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and support with the ultimate goal of preventing most cancers, curing more cases of cancers and helping those currently affected by cancer, by 2030.
"The future of cancer needs to change and the time to change the future is now," Health Minister Fred Horne said Tuesday.
"For the first time in Alberta's history, through a co-ordinated provincial cancer plan, we aim to help prevent more cancers, to cure more cancer and to greatly of course reduce the suffering of those who are afflicted."
A key part of the strategy plan is the creation of CancerControl Alberta, a new operating division within Alberta Health Services, that will bring together all of the province’s cancer facilities and programs under one umbrella.
Other strategies highlighted in the plan centre around prevention, screening, integrated diagnosis, research, surveillance and more, including:
- Reducing the risk of cancer through co-ordinated and integrated prevention strategies
- Find cancer early by using robust data and appropriate screening activities
- Develop a strong cancer workforce to meet the needs of cancer patients and families
- Focus Alberta's research efforts to better support breakthroughs in cancer prevention, care and policy
HPV vaccine funding for boys on the way
Although it was not formally announced Tuesday, Horne says the province will fund the HPV vaccine for Alberta boys.
Up until now, the vaccine had only been funded for girls as a method to prevent cervical cancer.
HPV is also known to cause head and neck cancers.
News of the funding is important for Susan Morgan, who says the virus changed her husband forever.
"For the rest of his life, he will have some very uncomfortable side affects," Morgan said. "He will never have saliva."
Two years ago, doctors told Shawn Morgan the cancerous tumour at the base of his tongue was a result of HPV.
Since then, Morgan has made it her mission to convince the province to fund the vaccine for boys, in the hopes that it will save lives and prevent others from going through what her husband went through.
She's thrilled with the province's new cancer strategy and hopeful over news that HPV vaccine funding will be provided for boys.
"That is such an imporant part of this, so that people don't have to suffer like Shawn has suffered and continues to suffer," Morgan said.
Details on the HPV funding have yet to be worked out, as Horne says it is a relatively new development.
"We have a bit more research to finish up. It's certainly our intention to make it available, exactly what the timing will be, I don't know," he said.
"As you can imagine, with cancer there are lots of treatment and technology that is available. We have to make sure we're using the dollars to meet patient needs as best we can."
Dozens of Albertans diagnosed each day
Each day, 15 Albertans die from cancer and 42 Albertans are diagnosed with the disease.
The province expects that figure to grow to 73 new cancer cases a day by 2030.
"We know that one-third of cancers can be prevented simply by not using tobacco or being exposed to second-hand smoke," Horne said.
"One-third of the most common cancers can be prevented through diet and excercise. Prevention strategies in the cancer plan will help more Albertans live healthy, cancer-free lives."
The province says Alberta’s cancer plan is “more than a vision, it’s a commitment" and heightened focus on research and prevention - including finding better ways to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles, will be key.
"We believe if we were moderately successful and that's a big deal, to be moderately successful, we could prevent 30 per cent of cancers. We know what needs to be done, it's just how do we achieve that," said Dr. Paul Grundy, senior vice president and senior medical director CancerControl Alberta,
"We think trying to prevent 30 per cent (of cancer cases) is conceivably achievable."
About 500 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer each day.
An estimated two out of five Canadians are expected to develop cancer during their lifetime, and one out of four Canadians are expected to die from cancer.
Last year, about 16,100 Albertans were diagnosed with the disease.
With files from Carmen Leibel